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Comment Re:Smashing idea (Score 2) 101 101

In a no-holds-barred fight, they have a HUGE bullseye painted on them, and will be easy to take out.

Easy being a relative term.

Keep in mind that in World War II, the Japanese had lots of bases on little tiny islands. And it took hundreds of thousands of Marines to take them away.

The only reason this was done was because carrier aircraft of the era didn't pack anywhere the same punch as land based aircraft. Land based aircraft didn't have the range to hit Japan from areas under US control and return to base. In-flight refueling was still very experimental. Island hopping is no longer necessary. These rocks are small enough to completely obliterate in an afternoon by air anyway. Anybody left is not going to be in a position to threaten high-flying aircraft or ships.

Comment Re:Why can only humans read and write? (Score 1) 167 167

Can someone explain to me why none of the great apes that supposedly share so much with humans in terms of cognitive ability can be taught how to read and to write, not merely as a parlor trick that the creature utilizes so that it will receive some reward that might satisfy an immediate physiological craving such as hunger, but as a technique that the animal might use to communicate its own thoughts and ideas to others (can an ape write a creative story with a beginning, middle, and end, for example?), and in particular, be able to teach this ability to successive generations of apes who may then even surpass the ability of their own instructor? An ape that could read could then teach itself how to do many more things than what it currently knows simply by reading about them, rather than having to be explicitly instructed by someone else... it could learn the rules to a game like chess, for example.

Language is not the only indicator of intelligence. Fu Manchu (the chimp, not the movie character) not only figured out how to use a tool to pick a lock and escape from his exhibit, but also was intelligent enough to realize that he needed to keep his escape tool concealed from humans. In other words, he intentionally and deliberately deceived them. Nobody intentionally taught him to do that. Some animals do practice deception, but not usually in regards to unnatural (manmade) constructs like locks and lockpicks. Children are incapable of deception until they are about 3 years old. Children under 3 also generally can't pick a lock unless they see someone else do it first.

Monkeys aren't people, but some of them are genuinely more intelligent than a 3 year old human.

Comment Re:Truck Stops, Gas Stations, etc (Score 1) 861 861

I expect a standard for big-rigs to be developed where there are modular battery compartments on the underside of the trailer for conventional van trailers, such that the truck pulls up, the batteries under the trailer and under the tractor are swapped, and they're on their way again. Depending on how they're designed they might also make for good under-ride protection, so cars can't drive under the trailers and get trapped or crushed.

That will require changes to the load limits in every state, or it won't be accepted by any trucking company. I am not involved in the trucking industry, but I had to load a semi with a bunch of my company's equipment several times. There are laws for loading on each axle, and the truck axle limits are different than the trailer axle limits. And every US state and Canadian province is different. My company's stuff isn't especially heavy but juggling the axle loads is a big pain. Many companies that ship equipment frequently (like my company) have sized their equipment for the max truck loads, based on the weight of the average step-deck trailer and the average truck. If you add even 2000 lb of batteries onto either the truck or the trailer it is going to be a problem for lots of people.

Comment Re:Jeremy clarkson does not approve (Score 1) 861 861

This quote got me:

"Electric cars will be better than any alternative, including the loud, inconvenient, gas-powered jalopy,"

Seriously, do people not like the throaty growl of a well tuned engine? Heck, even kids today put the coffee can mufflers for at least that type sound (I don't find it as pleasant as better, large engine sound, but to each his own.)

I've never driven an actual car, but I bought the Voltic in GTA5 without knowing it was an electric vehicle. Despite the speed and good looks, I hated it. Without the engine sound it just seemed... wrong somehow. I think I ran it out of battery also which didn't help my impression.

Comment Re:Likely a new gift for the NSA (Score 3, Interesting) 218 218

Weather guys want this after NSA's done.

I'm a weather guy - running cloud model code on Blue Waters, the fastest petascale machine for research in the U.S. I don't think we've managed to get any weather code run much more than 1 PF sustained - if even that. So it's not like you can compile WRF and run it with 10 million MPI ranks and call it a day. Ensembles? Well that's another story.

Exascale machines are going to have to be a lot different than petascale machines (which aren't all that different topologically than terascale machines) in order to be useful to scientists and in order to no require their own nuclear power plant to run. And I don't think we know what that topology will look like yet. A thousand cores per node? That should be fun; sounds like a GPU. Regardless, legacy weather code will need to be rewritten or more likely new models will need to be written from scratch in order to do more intelligent multithreading as opposed to mostly-MPI which is what we have today.

When asked at the Blue Waters Symposium this May to prognosticate on the future coding paradigm for exascale machines, Steven Scott (Senior VP and CTO of Cray) said we'll probably still be using MPI + OpenMP. If that's the case we're gonna have to be a hell of a lot more creative with OpenMP.

I'm not a weather guy, but my understanding is that a somewhat fixed weather model (set of calculations) is used to do a kind of finite-element analysis on small areas. With better computing and better radars, smaller and smaller areas can be calculated, which results in more accuracy.

With more computing power, could you not vary the parameters or constants used in the weather model, then run the finite-element analysis over the entire weather area again? You could be running hundreds or thousands of slightly different weather models, then apply some processing to figure out which is most likely- either by averaging together the 50% most similar outcomes, or by some other method. I don't think you could peak out a supercomputer with that method if you kept adding more parameter variations, although you may get to the point where adding more parameter variations doesn't improve accuracy.

Maybe that's an incorrect understanding, but we're getting closer to the point where we can calculate all possible outcomes simultaneously. I wouldn't have expected this to be the case with weather but computing has come a long way in the last 20 years.

Comment Re:Fantastic! (Score 1) 23 23

Oh man, I've been waiting for someone to figure out how to do this. Feels like the last critical piece of VR... "reality capture".

Imagine... - Experiencing a live feed of a skydiver/basejumper/surfer/other extreme sport, where you can look around naturally in 3D - A probe in space or on another planet - An immersive control system for robots - On and on. You can now tap into and share someone else's experience viscerally, either realtime or recorded.

This is basically Strange Days.

I'm less than impressed by 360 videos so far. I'll admit that I have seen only 2: bjork's stonemilker music video and Aram Pan's North Korea YPT tour video.

The North Korea video I appreciate more, because you can look all around a location that most people will never visit. However, with both videos, I feel like I am playing "where's Waldo" with the content. Having 360 degree videos is fine, but I feel like a "director's mode" on/off toggle seems to be needed for people who don't want to feel like they are missing something interesting. I don't have time to explore every last location in a video game, and similarly I don't have time to rewatch 360 degree videos just to check every angle for easter eggs.

Comment Re:Why not have more public restrooms? (Score 1) 209 209

This is the real issue in these situations. There really isn't a good place to pee in a lot of places. People often as not rely on restrooms provided by businesses and they only let you go in there if you are a customer. So if you're not... or they're closed because it is late... then where are you going to pee?

The issue with public restrooms is that that is realestate that is valudable and you have to police and maintain them to keep people from selling drugs for blow jobs in them or rubbing shit into the ceiling.

The Solution there is to have them be public but make their maintenance the responsibility of locals rather than some city workers that will be under staffed, unmotivated, and unaccountable when they don't do their jobs. Local businesses will want those facilities to look good and be good and so they'll task someone to deal with it.

Regardless, anyone that thinks they're stopping people from peeing by putting funny paint on the walls is an idiot.

1. You can still pee on the ground.

2. Stand back and pee at an angle and you can pee on the wall.

3. Women are responsible for this far more than you'd realize and they pop a squat and pee.

So... yeah. You're not stopping anything with your paint. Put in more public bathrooms or get used to the smell of urine.

Maintenance doesn't have to be a problem for public bathrooms. Unless it is in a remote area, a 1st-world public bathroom requires water and sewer connections. Make the whole thing out of plastics / stainless / tile and put in sloping floors and a floor drain. Put some retractable rotating water jets in the ceiling, and have them go off at 3AM every day and with an occupancy sensor. I'm thinking like a soot blower (PDF) kind of device, but with water. To reduce complexity you could power the rotation with a small water turbine or just make the nozzles with 360 degree coverage. Most cities have very impressive water pressure in the early AM hours, so a pump shouldn't be required.

Japanese public bathrooms sometimes don't have toilet paper or paper hand towels. People are in the habit of carrying their own. It is better to have a bathroom and bring your own paper than to have no bathrooms at all.

A bathroom built like this wouldn't need regular cleaning or restocking. You could put them on the sidewalk in high-traffic areas to avoid having to purchase land. It's a public good, and exactly the sort of thing governments should provide.

Comment Re:This is logical next step (Score 1) 235 235

People in USA and Europe with excellent grid connections are not aware of it. But in places like India with unreliable grid, people have been using backup electricity storage for quite some time. Typically truck lead-acid batteries are used to store enough energy to power a couple of ceiling fans, a few lamps and the TV, never forget the TV, for a few hours. They put up with power outages using these contraptions.

They use inverters to convert the DC to some square wave and approximate it to A/C using electronic gimmicks. Not a pure sine wave A/C, but close enough to run fans and the lamps. Energy conversion efficiency is not bad, the inverters do hot heat up too much. But they play havoc with the motors. So the Japanese A/C makers have been selling ruggadized air conditioners that can run on the inverter electricity.

The logical next step is to create A/C to run purely on DC. Probably it would use AC to DC converters to use grid electricity. Again this DC would be poor in quality compared to battery DC. So this Aircon also would need to be ruggadized.

All these calculations about when residential solar will become viable compared to coal or natural gas are completely different between G8 and rest of the world. Places like India will pay well over the current grid price for steady electricity supply. Not all of them. But the affluent population of India is about the size of Japan, some 120 million people. They have been making do with truck-battery-inverter contraptions, small gasoline generator sets etc. They would probably form the wave of early adopters who pay for the early fixed costs of solar panel factories.

When I visited North Korea, individual solar panels were everywhere, in cities and in the countryside, charging lead-acid batteries for lighting at night. Being on China's doorstep, it may be cheaper to do this than to build out the grid. Widespread availability of food refrigeration would help poor countries tremendously.

Comment Re:Already been done in China for a while (Score 2) 235 235

I don't know about building codes, but the UL is a private organization. There's no legal need, in general, for anything to be UL-certified in the US.

I have had fire marshals come down hard on my company for electrical equipment that didn't have the sticker. I've experienced it in 2 different states, at 2 different companies. And I have heard of other companies having similar problems. If it doesn't have the sticker than it falls outside of common exclusions for inspections. We had to have electricians come in and verify that the equipment was safe by checking every wire to code and generally accepted practices.

Maybe for a residential installation it would be fine. Or maybe it wouldn't be. You're basically betting that the home inspector wouldn't see a problem with it. Home inspectors are generally assholes so that's not a gamble I want to take.

Comment Re:Already been done in China for a while (Score 1) 235 235

I've been saying for a few years that if you just had a few solar panels in your back yard, and didn't want to go through the expense of all the inverter stuff, you could just use it to charge a small battery and power a DC air conditioner. That's because you generally want air conditioning at the same time that you have the most solar power. At the time, the only DC air conditioners available were for marine use, and so they were expensive. However, in the last year and a half I noticed a lot of DC air conditioners on the marker on AliExpress (in China). Some of them even come as a kit including solar panels. The difference here is that presumably the Sharp ones are UL and/or CSA certified, so you could use them in North America.

Honestly, some of the stuff on AliExpress is impressive for how cheap it is. You can buy 500W grid-tie inverters for a solar array for the $200 range. Unfortunately they only have a CE rating, so they're not OK for North America yet. In comparison you can spend 3 to 4 times that much here.

It's really eye opening how much middlemen mark up chinese goods. My wife has ordered high-end clothing and a fabric baby carrier from Aliexpress. Sometimes the quality is typical of cheaply made goods, but in many cases we can't tell if it is an excellent knockoff or a case of "Prada ordered 10,000 units, let's make 12,000 and sell the extras ourselves". The markup on mainstream high-end goods is extreme. Independent entrepreneurs have taken advantages of this in some sectors, but not others. Only the threat of legal action is holding back the tide in some cases.

That said, I used an NEC relay in my last project, as opposed to the equivalent chinese model. Dresses and purses might have the ability to catastrophically fail, but when they do, my apartment doesn't burn down.

Comment Probably not useful (Score 5, Informative) 91 91

If the simulations turn out to be correct, the new alloy may be useful in parts like jet engines, and the door will be opened to using similar simulations to search for substances with even higher melting points or with other exotic properties.

No, it won't. Materials for jet engines must be reasonably affordable, machinable or otherwise workable, and available in large quantities. I have about 4600 lbs [2086kg] of 422 stainless going through my shop right now for a single row of blades for one machine. They're big blades, but even for small blades, hundreds of pounds of material is common. An alloy of hafnium, nitrogen and carbon isn't going to be cheap enough for that to ever be feasible. It is probably a brittle material as well. Brittle materials and a high vibration environment don't mix.

Maybe you could apply it as a coating, but I'm not sure how that would be possible. Almost all coatings of this type require you to liquify or vaporize the coating material. Plus, you run into the same problem as before- a thin coating won't protect the base metal, and a thick one would be prohibitively expensive.

Comment Re:SD Card? (Score 2) 150 150

Cost of 160GB of SD card NAND: $48 Cost of 48GB of same NAND soldered to the board: $50 They don't want you storing videos, pictures, music, and audio books on SD card; they want you to pay over 3x as much for that same SD card.

Compare the IOPS between an SD card and on-board NAND. Not the same thing.

Do you see a need for high IOPS for storing or viewing videos, pictures, music, or audiobooks? Because I don't. Even for loading apps that's a tough sell. I have a microSD card on a Windows 8 tablet and the only noticeable affect is that read/write speed is slower than the on-device storage. And that's because they used a cheap SD card controller- the card itself is more than capable. It isn't an issue with media consumption devices like phones and tablets.

Comment Re:Hopefully the actual plan defines the terms (Score 1) 571 571

$60 Billion for 500 million panels = $120 per panel. Of course, panel size is not specified (not a needed detail when hawking votes), but the present incentives are more than that per panel if you are talking $1kw panels or larger. Is she proposing a reduction in incentives?

My first impression is that this is the standard politician trick of promising something that is already highly likely to occur or inevitable. Most successful politicians, regardless of political party, use these kind of promises all the time. Especially in areas where the measurement of progress can be boiled down to a single or a small number of numerical values.

Comment Re:More Republican corporate welfare (Score 1) 248 248

sure, and we didnt have the tech to send us to the moon in the 60s...but we did it

So what are you trying to say here? He3 is only useful in a fusion reactor and we don't have a working design. People have been working on one ever since they invented the H-bomb and come up short, we have enough He3 here on earth to experiment/test with. Maybe we should see if we're able to do something useful with it before we spend billions trying to build a moon mining operation?

I completely agree with you and it is sad to see this tired old argument every time there is a moon story. There are plenty of good reasons to go to the moon, He3 isn't one of them. There is no reason to even bring up the subject given the numerous other reasons to go to the moon.

Never ask two questions in a business letter. The reply will discuss the one you are least interested, and say nothing about the other.